US House to vote on select committee to probe deadly Capitol attack

Supporters of then President Donald Trump storming the Capitol in Washington, DC, on Jan 6, 2021. The attack left five dead.
Supporters of then President Donald Trump storming the Capitol in Washington, DC, on Jan 6, 2021. The attack left five dead.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States House of Representatives votes on Wednesday (June 30) on legislation to create a new select committee to probe the deadly Jan 6 attack on the US Capitol, after Senate Republicans in May blocked an independent commission to probe the assault.

Hundreds of supporters of then President Donald Trump stormed the building that day in an unsuccessful attempt to stop Congress from certifying Democratic President Joe Biden's election win. The violence left five dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

Democrats want the panel to probe "why Jan 6 happened, who was responsible for Jan 6 happening, and what can we do to prevent a Jan 6 insurrection from happening again?" House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.

Republicans have not said whether they will participate, but their leaders recommended voting against the creation of the committee, saying it was likely to pursue a partisan agenda.

Republicans already have blocked an outside commission whose members would have been evenly divided between the political parties - unlike the current proposal, which gives Democrats a clear 8-5 advantage.

Republicans have argued that existing committee probes, as well as prosecutors' investigations make an outside commission or a select committee unnecessary. More than 500 people have been charged with taking part in the violence.

The select committee proposal puts Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi squarely in charge. It calls for her to appoint the panel's chairman and all 13 members, although five members would be selected by the speaker "after consultation with" House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

This suggests Ms Pelosi could block a Republican attempt to name someone like Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, an ally of Mr Trump who told CNN she would like to be chosen.

The panel would have subpoena power, presumably allowing it to call Mr Trump as a witness, said Ms Carrie Cordero, a senior fellow at the Centre for New American Security think-tank. However, "they'll have to make decisions about whether they want to engage in litigation over subpoenas", she said.

An aide said Ms Pelosi was considering a Republican among her appointees. Thirty-five House Republicans voted for a commission in May, and some of them have criticised Mr Trump over the attack on the Capitol.

But Representative John Katko, a Republican who helped broker the bipartisan commission proposal that was blocked in the Senate, denounced Ms Pelosi's select committee plan as "a turbocharged partisan exercise".

The resolution gives no deadline for finishing, meaning it could spill over into next year, when 2022 midterm elections will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control Congress.

A previous House select committee on the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was derided by Democrats as a political vendetta against Ms Hillary Clinton, who served as Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. The report by the Republican-dominated panel, which appeared during Ms Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, said the State Department had failed to protect four Americans killed in that attack.